A new study published in August 2017’s Journal of Clinical Oncology infers that taking B vitamins can increase the risk of lung cancer… or at least that is the appearance of it all.
This kind of study can produce uneasiness if you take B vitamins as part of your health regimen. They are among the most popular dietary supplements on the market. B Complex is thought to boost energy reserve, support metabolism and adrenal function and protect your nerves from fraying. B vitamins turn food into fuel so they help with body fat too.
The August study suggests that two B vitamins, B6 and B12, from the whole “B complex” family are potentially harmful, but let’s take a closer look before we hang them. Remember, vitamins are there to fill a nutritional gap, and in fact, your body manufactures them sometimes, including B12 which is created from your intestinal flora (probiotics). So how can something you create be harmful?
The study suggests that B6 and B12 can increase lung cancer in men who smoke. I feel that a reality check is needed, because not all B vitamins are created equal. And not all studies are sound. Let’s break this all down now:
1. The study was conducted in men who smoke.
Are you a male?
Do you smoke?
My point is that these potentially scary findings about cancer don’t even apply to non-smoking men or women.
2. The findings were not based upon a genuine clinical trial, this was a cohort study, a prospective, observational study. Those are a lot of words that basically mean that scientists looked at outcomes (development of cancer, in this case) over a long period of time (10 years) but they didn’t give the men B6 and B12 and draw a direct line from Point A to Point B. For me, that’s inconclusive.
3. The researchers attempted to account for various factors so they could level the playing field. They asked questions of each participant about their smoking history, age, body size, alcohol use, history of cancer, use of anti-inflammatory medications and a few other details. I do not trust that the answers given were accurate. How many questionnaires have you completed in your life in which you underestimated your weight, or smoking and drinking habits?
4. The dietary supplements taken were more than likely synthetic and/or not biologically active because unfortunately, that’s what 99% of dietary supplements are. You may not realize this, but Vitamin B6 as “pyridoxine” is not even biologically active when you take it. It has to be converted in your body to P5P, and many of you can’t convert it… rendering nothing more than expensive urine. Vitamin B12 sold as “cyanocobalamin” isn’t biologically active either, not until it breaks down in your body. When that form of B12 breaks down, it snaps into two other molecules, cyanide and cobalamin. Your body deals with that and processes only the cobalamin. It’s a lot of work metabolically speaking because these are synthetic forms and that’s what the partipipants in the study took.
It begs the question, “Do you think taking synthetic or inactive chemicals while inhaling toxic nicotine will promote your health?”
5. And that last thought about nicotine closes my case. Nicotine and related compounds are known to be carcinogenic. In my humble opinion, it doesn’t matter a whole lot what else you’re doing to promote health if you continue to smoke.
Last point, it’s best to eat green leafy vegetables and lean meats to get B6 and B12 respectively. Nothing beats real food! But if you are going to take a dietary supplement then please, buy from high-quality makers that use biologically active (body-ready) forms of nutrients. For example, Methylcobalamin is the cell-loving form of B12. And Adenosylcobalamin (adeno B12) is the mito-loving form of B12. Both of those are more biologically active in the body than synthesized Cyanocobalamin.
(FYI when I say “mito” I mean mitochondria, of which you have 3 to 4 pounds of these energy-producing organelles in your body. You have millions of them! Tired mito = tired YOU!)
Folic acid is synthetic, whereas Methylfolate (5-MTHF) is natural and you can get this from eating salads and sautéed greens. It’s the methylated form of folate which is biologically active and understood by the body, especially your methylation cycle.
To wrap this up, I’m not saying that B6 and B12 are good for you, nor am I saying that taking them will promote your health, or hasten your death. It’s confusing isn’t it. This is what I am saying:
- Don’t trust headlines, they are intended to be sensational in order to get you to read!
- Don’t trust the interpretation of scientists who use synthetic, potentially harmful compounds in their studies. If natural, bio-identical compounds are used then I’d say the study is a little more trustworthy.
- There are often missing details in studies and they are critical to determining if there’s really a strong risk or association. Most people unfortunately hear the word “study”, read the awful conclusions and buy it hook, line and sinker.
- B6 and B12 sold in most dietary supplements are unfortunately synthetic, and not biologically active until your body activates them. They could essentially be useless, or worse, they could be harmful. Buy high-quality vitamins or don’t buy them at all.
- B6 and B12 are found in real food. Eat nutritional foods every day and you may not even need to supplement.
- Don’t smoke, it will hasten your demise even if you’re taking a multivitamin or a high-quality B Complex. It won’t matter much because nothing truly offsets the full body oxidative fire that simmers in a person who smokes.
If you are a smoker, or have a history of smoking, then B vitamins are not as useful to you as Vitamin C (such as from drinking orange juice). That’s because smoking is a ‘drug mugger’ of Vitamin C. So if you are a smoker or tobacco chewer but are trying to improve your health, then take a high quality C, or eat citrus fruits. C is more of a “friend” to your body than a B vitamin.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.